By the end of Week 17, 12 teams will have secured berths in the 2015 NFL postseason.
However, not all playoff teams are created equal. Some are streaking into the postseason, while others are backing their way into the dance.
Three weeks remain, so the teams listed below might change by the end of the season. But ahead of Week 15, these are the teams currently streaking and slumping into the postseason picture:
Kansas City Chiefs
Since starting 1-5 and losing star running back Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs have rattled off seven straight wins. Kansas City’s average margin of victory over the streak is a staggering 17.1 points.
The Chiefs have scored 29 or more points five times, while also allowing 13 or fewer points five times. With the 4-9 Baltimore Ravens and 3-10 Cleveland Browns next on the schedule, the Chiefs have a legitimate opportunity to get to eight or nine straight wins.
The Seahawks have morphed back into one of the NFL’s scariest teams. Many wrote off the defending NFC champions after a disappointing 2-4 start, but Seattle has since won six of the last seven games, including each of the last four.
Quarterback Russell Wilson has been the spark to the Seahawks’ flame, throwing 16 touchdowns against zero interceptions over the last month. Any team in the NFC want to play these guys in January? (Crickets)
The Cardinals just continue to win, win, win. Since losing to the Steelers way back in the middle of October, Arizona has won seven straight games, including victories over the Seahawks, Bengals and Vikings.
It’s been a rather quiet streak. For whatever reason, they are the team stuck in the shadow of Carolina’s perfect season and Seattle’s sudden revival. There will be nothing quiet about the Cardinals’ streak if it can get to 10, which would require wins over the Eagles, Packers and Seahawks to finish the season.
This list has to include the Panthers, right? Carolina is just three wins away from a perfect regular season. In fact, if we’re only counting the regular season, the Panthers haven’t lost in 17 straight games.
Carolina can make it 20 in a row by finishing off the 16-0 season. It will take wins against the Giants, Falcons and Buccaneers, three teams all fighting to make the postseason. But the Panthers will be heavy favorites in all three games.
Honorable mention: Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles
Since starting 7-2, the Vikings have lost three of the last four games. All three losses have come against likely NFC playoff teams (Packers, Seahawks, Cardinals), but that’s more troubling than comforting.
Luckily, Minnesota has a chance to right the ship over the next two weeks, which feature home games against the Bears and Giants. The Vikings can clinch a playoff spot and set up a de facto divisional title game in Week 17 at Lambeau Field with back-to-back wins.
The Colts and Texans have both lost two straight games since getting over the .500 hump at 6-5. Now, the two 6-7 teams will have to fight off the Jaguars, who are lurking around at 5-8.
Who knows how many wins it will take to win the division. The Colts and Texans play this weekend, so at least seven. It sure feels like 8-8 will be more than enough to capture the AFC South in 2015.
The Bengals have lost three of the last five games since starting 8-0. That isn’t a huge issue, as 10-3 is still a better record than all but three teams in the NFL this season.
However, last Sunday’s defeat to the Steelers also saw the Bengals lose quarterback Andy Dalton for unspecified amount of time with a broken thumb. Cincinnati plays the 49ers, Broncos and Ravens to finish the season, but any record is possible over the final three games with backup AJ McCarron under center.
It’s almost hard to consider the Falcons still in the postseason hunt, but they are mathematically alive at 6-7. Once 5-0 and cruising, Atlanta has been one of the league’s worst teams over the last two months—losing seven of the last eight games.
The Falcons might find it difficult to rebound from last week’s 38-0 thrashing at the hands of the Panthers, but three wins over the final three games—which includes a visit from Carolina—could get Atlanta into the postseason. Good luck, Dirty Birds.
Honorable mention: Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos